When Dane Shikman (SFS ’13) became conferences coordinator for Georgetown’s Model United Nations Team this fall, he was determined to break tradition and put community over competition.
“I shifted the vision away to be more inclusive — to say Model UN is about more than winning, it’s about building a community of people that feel like they’re connected to something very valuable and meaningful,” Shikman said.
Conference judges evaluate Model UN teams partly based on the number of delegates on each team, with fewer delegates increasing a team’s odds of winning. While former Georgetown conferences coordinators focused on choosing a lower number of delegates to boost their chances of winning,Shikman refused to do so.
“There’s something different about Georgetown and it’s not just because we do Model UN well, because we clearly do, but that’s not something that keeps us [at] number one,” he said. “It’s the Georgetown spirit. It’s something unique about the energy we bring to a conference.”
Even with the odds against them, the Georgetown Model UN team, which brought 44 students to a recent conference — a large jump from the usual 15 — was ranked as the top Model UN program in North America this fall by Best Delegate, an organization regarded as the national authority on Model UN rankings.
The Best Delegate rankings are based on the competitiveness of the conferences that teams have participated in, the awards they have won and how many people competed on the team at each conference.
While Georgetown was also ranked number one last year, the team faced obstacles in retaining their leading position. According to Director of Public Relations Andrea Cohen (SFS ’15), the achievement stemmed from the hard work of all 75 team members.
“The competition this year seemed … tougher than last year,” she said. “That’s going to be what we’re going to have to keep fighting against this semester.”
Cohen singled out the members new to the team this year as being pivotal to the ranking.
“We have amazing freshmen and new people [in] the Model UN class, and that’s really important because those are the people that can sometimes determine awards,” she said. “I think that’s one of the things that put us ahead in rankings.”
The first-place ranking this year surprised Shikman because, in addition to its increased size, the team was awarded second place at two conferences this season.
“We didn’t know if we would be number one,” he said. “I didn’t expect Best Delegate to weight team size like I thought they should.”
Beyond the glint and gleam of its awards and recognition, members of the Model UN team are enthusiastic about the committee topics and countries that they represent.
“The goal is to solve world issues. We go for the love of diplomacy,” said Director of Operations JeffreyCaso (SFS ’15)..
In addition to discussing international policy, conference delegates have the chance to meet students from other colleges.
“You really get to know a lot of people from different universities, which is one of my favorite parts of Model UN,” Cohen said.
Students that participate in Model UN bring Georgetown traditions to the conferences that they attend.
“At the end of every conference, whether we win or lose, the Georgetown team stands on our chairs in the big assembly hall and sings the fight song before we leave,” Caso said. “We’re growing and we’re bringing the Georgetown name.”